The Stone Law Firm
Over the course of 25 years, certain questions come up repeatedly. This page seeks to answer the most common questions.
What is a retainer agreement/what is a promissory note and why are they necessary?
A retainer agreement formalizes the attorney/client relationship and is required by the Utah Bar Association. A retainer agreement spells out the scope of representation, fees, and the responsibilities of both the attorney and the client. A promissory note is a binding promise to pay the capped hourly fee (subject to an accounting, per the retainer agreement) if the client pays any less than the full capped hourly fee. The promissory note includes the payment schedule, the interest rate and penalties and remedies should a client fail to pay, and a description of the accounting process.
How do I pay The Stone Law Firm?
The Stone Law Firm uses an online client portal that can be found here: https://stonelawfirm.loanpro.software/. Directions on how to access the portal are located on the landing page. A troubleshooting video can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_UBOEaOYDqU. An important note: due to issues regarding secure payments for legal related services, the portal must be accessed through a computer or tablet, NOT on a phone. If you have problems accessing your account, Carrie Pace is available M-F 9 am to 5 pm to assist you. In the event you continue to have problems, Carrie can email you an invoice or take payment over the phone. In addition, the firm maintains a drop box at the Holladay office and clients can fill out payment slips and envelopes and drop payments M-F 8 am to 6 pm.
How do I access my Stone Law Firm cloud file?
The Stone Law Firm uses a third party cloud provider called Box.com to store and access client files. When you retain the firm, Carrie Pace creates a box.com folder for you and invites you to join your cloud file by sending an email to the email address you provided in your retainer agreement. Once you accept the invite and create a user name and password, you can access the entire contents of your cloud file with 24/7/365. You can set up notifications so that you are notified once documents are added to your box.com folder. You may add documents yourself and create an interactive note with Edward Stone through Box Notes. Instructions on how to accept box.com invites can be found here. If you have a difficult time access your cloud file, The Stone Law Firm can create a link so that you can access the file without the necessity of creating a username and password. Should you request a link, it is critical to understand that the link provides unrestricted access to anyone with the link, and thus you should not share the link with anyone.
What is the purpose of the next hearing in my case?
You can read about the court process in detail with this link. Justice courts, which are the lower trial court in Utah, use a somewhat different process than District Courts, the upper trial courts in Utah. The reason for this is the right to a preliminary hearing in all felony cases and class A misdemeanors.
When is my next hearing?
The Stone Law Firm sends several reminders (via email, text message and phone) reminding clients of each hearing date and time. You can also look up what’s going on in your case yourself through the Utah Courts My Case service. To create your own My Case account, click here and follow the prompts: https://www.utcourts.gov/mycase/.
How many court hearings will I have?
The number of hearings depend on whether you are in district court or justice court. District court cases (felonies and class A misdemeanors) then to have 1-2 more hearings than justice court cases, due to some additional procedural requirements. A typical case that resolves pretrial will have 1-3 hearings in justice court and 2-4 hearings in district court. Of course, each case is unique and there will be more hearings for issues related to the suppression of evidence, expert witnesses, continuances for evaluations and waiting for the results of forensic testing.
How long will the court process take?
Hearings are typically spaced roughly 30-45 days apart. A typical justice court case that resolves pretrial will take 2-4 months in larger justice courts that have court regularly. Smaller justice courts might only hold court a few times a month, and thus hearings might be 60 days apart or more. District court cases have more hearings due to the preliminary hearing process and the seriousness of the offenses, so 3-5 months is a more typical timeframe for pretrial resolution of a case
What is Discovery?
Discovery is a general terms referring to police reports, witness statements, body camera footage, dash cam, forensic testing reports, and other evidence gathered by law enforcement and investigators working for the prosecutor’s office. The prosecutor is required to turn over all evidence, both inculpatory and exculpatory, to the defense when a request for discovery is filed pursuant to rule 16 of the Utah rules of criminal procedure. The prosecutor is obligated to supplement the discovery responses with additional evidence gathered throughout the court process. There is no specific timeframe in which prosecutors have to provide discovery to the defense; but if the prosecutor attempts to introduce evidence at the time of trial that was either not disclosed to the defense or disclosed with insufficient time to adequately investigate the information, a trial may be continued or the court can rule the evidence inadmissible.
What is a plea in abeyance?
A plea in abeyance is a disposition in which the defendant pleads guilty or no contest. The court accepts the plea, but does not enter a conviction. Instead, the court holds the plea in abeyance pending compliance with the terms and conditions negotiated by the defense and prosecution. A judge is not authorized to offer a plea in abeyance; only a prosecutor can offer a plea in abeyance. A judge cannot change the terms and conditions of a plea in abeyance agreement; the court can only adopt the agreement or decline to adopt it. Once the defendant completes all terms and conditions of the plea in abeyance, the plea with withdrawn and the case dismissed. The case is NOT automatically expunged. Once the case is dismissed, it will still show as a case that was filed and dismissed. An expungement, which is a separate process, if necessary to delete even the existence of the case. The key procedural component to a plea in abeyance is the waiver of a trial; in order to resolve the case with a plea in abeyance, the defendant must waive his or her trial rights. The effect of this waiver is that there will never be a trial in the case. If the defendant violates the terms and conditions of his/her plea in abeyance, the court only determines if a violation occurred. If a violation did occur, the court may revoke the plea in abeyance agreement and enter the conviction and the defendant then stands for sentencing.
What is a preliminary hearing?
A preliminary hearing is an evidentiary hearing to determine if probable cause exists to believe that a crime was committed and that the defendant committed the crime. Preliminary hearings are available only for felony level and class A misdemeanor level offenses. The court is required to consider the evidence presented at the time of the preliminary hearing in the light most favorable to the state and the court is required to give every inference in favor of the state. The court does NOT weigh credibility of evidence or the weight of the evidence, as long as it passes a very low reliability standard. A prosecutor may introduce a sworn statement known as an 1102 statement in lieu of live witness testimony. A defendant has limited power to call adverse witnesses (such as the alleged victim) to testify because the Utah Supreme Court has determined that a preliminary hearing is not a hearing at which the defendant has a right to confront accusers directly. Instead, the hearing is more technical; i.e. the court determines if the prosecution provided some evidence on each element. If the answer is yes, the court binds over for trial. It is important to note that should a defendant waive his/her right to a preliminary hearing, that waiver does NOT compromise a defendant’s right to take a matter to trial.
Is my court in person or webex?
Court have been changing rapidly and then again based on COVID numbers. There is no consistent rule in how each judge conducts his/her courtroom. Some judges allow webex for nearly every hearing, other judges allow webex for some hearings and still others allow webex in only limited circumstances. It is best to assume that a hearing is in person, absent information to the contrary.
When will the court/The Stone Law Firm send webex links for my court hearing?
Courts provide webex links in several ways. Some courts have static webex meeting rooms, meaning that the webex link is the same for every hearing. Others email invites to defendants/attorneys. Still others put the webex links on the court master calendar, which can be found here: https://www.utcourts.gov/cal/.
What should I wear to court?
Dress as if you are going to Thanksgiving dinner with family. Collared shirts (preferably with a tie), pants (not jeans and no shorts) and no hats or sunglasses. For women, no tank tops or anything shirts showing shoulders, no bare midriff shirts, and pants or skirts that are knee length. No short shorts, ripped pants/shirts and no hats or sunglasses.
How early should I get to court?
If your court is webex, try getting on about 10 minutes early to give you some time to trouble shoot, if necessary. Courts frequently do not start their webex meetings until just before the scheduled start time, so don’t panic if you receive a notice that your meeting has not started. If you court is in person, plan on arriving in the parking lot at the court about 10-15 minutes before your hearing. The extra time is helpful for parking, clearing security, and finding the right courtroom and your attorney.
When will my case be called?
District Court calendars are usually in blocks; morning courts usually start at 830 or 9 and go until all morning cases are called. Afternoon court calendars typically start at 1 pm or 130 pm. There may be as many as 100 cases or more scheduled in a morning or afternoon calendar. Your case is one of that hundred or more, so patience is necessary. Other hearings may be specially set, meaning there are no other cases or only a few other cases scheduled at the time time. It is nearly impossible to guess whether you will be called in the first 5-10 cases, or near the end of the 100+ cases. The Stone Law Firm endeavors to call cases a quickly as possible, recognizing that attorneys have little control over exactly when cases will be called.
Will I have to say anything in court?
The judge will confirm your identity at the beginning of nearly every hearing. Other than this basic ID question, Edward Stone will do 90-100% of the talking. If a plea is being entered, the judge will ask specific yes/no questions about rights, but the questions will be reviewed with you by Edward Stone prior to the hearing.
What if I don't agree with the offer the prosecutor is making?
Defense attorneys cannot make prosecutors give offers that the defendant/defense attorney believes is reasonable. Likewise, the prosecutor cannot make a defendant plead to an offer that the defendant/defense attorney believes is not reasonable. When the defense and prosecution cannot reach agreement on a disposition, that is the purpose of a trial. A judge cannot force a prosecutor to give a particular offer and a judge cannot make a defendant accept a particular deal. A judge also lacks the ability to dismiss a case except in specific circumstances. There is a strong stated preference in Utah Supreme Court and US Supreme Court case law to allow a fact finder (jury or a judge during a bench trial) to listen to the evidence and render a verdict based on the evidence as opposed to dismissing without a trial.
Should I talk to witnesses myself?
No. There is a saying in the courthouse, “conversations create witnesses”. By talking to potential witnesses, a defendant does damage to his/her case in two material ways: (1) any conversation between a defendant and a potential witness is admissible. In other words, the witness can testify (and be forced to testify) about things that the defendant told them. Second, a defendant can compromise and otherwise helpful witness by talking to them. A skilled prosecutor will cross examine a witness about conversations between the defendant and the witness and create the appearance of collusion with the defendant and ask the jury to disregard the testimony of the witness because of the appearance of taint. A trained defense attorney (or investigator) can ask questions to a potential helpful witness in such a way that does not compromise their veracity to a jury. In addition, the conversation between the witness and the defense attorney and the investigator (in most cases) are not admissible at the time of trial.
Do I have to attend all my court hearings?
Yes, unless you are excused. Judges expect defendants to be physically present at every hearing. Unless you are specifically excused by the judge, or told that you may participate via Webex, you will be expected to attend every hearing in person. Failure to attend scheduled hearings may result in a warrant for your arrest for failure to appear.
What if I live out of state for court hearings?
One of the benefits of the pandemic was the widespread use of Webex, a web conferencing platform that was used (and still is) by most courts. How each court uses Webex varies widely; some courts are exclusively Webex with the exception of trial. Other courts have eliminated the use of Webex except for unusual circumstances. If you live out of state, or if you are out of state on the date of your hearing for an important reason, The Stone Law Firm can ask that you be allowed to attend court via Webex, or have your appearance excused (for most hearings) and have an attorney appear for you.
What is the difference between a pretrial and trial fee?
The pretrial fee includes everything up to the time trial is set. Everything after the setting of trial, including trial and final pretrial conferences, are considered part of the trial fee. Included in the trial fee are phone conversations, emails, phone calls with the client, prosecutor, witnesses, investigators. The pretrial fee also includes motions to suppress, miranda violation motions, 4th amendment violations and other pretrial motions work. The trial fee includes all preparation for trial, including preparation of jury voir dire (an important component of jury selection), preparation of jury instructions, preparation of opening and closing statements, preparation of direct and cross examination, the preparation of trial exhibits, preparation of trial witnesses, and meetings with any investigator/expert who might have been retained on the case.
Why do I have to pay when I perceive no work is being done on my case?
Court cases are not linear; there is not an equal amount of work occurring on a case over a span of time. There are flurries of action as hearings approach, followed by periods of little action. This is in large part due to the attention span of a prosecutor on any give case. To put your case into a larger context, a prosecutor handles approximately 20 cases a day, or about 100 cases a week. If your next hearing is a month away, your case is on the bottom of a 400 case pile (roughly). Prosecutors will rarely respond to emails and requests for action until cases start coming into their orbit, which is about 2-5 business days prior to a hearing. Unfortunately, this is the nature of criminal law. If a prosecutor is pushed too hard for too long, a defense attorney runs the risk of angering/frustrating/alienating the prosecutor who in turn takes that frustration out of the defense attorney’s client by refusing to review a case, refusing to give reasonable offers, or otherwise seeking a reasonable resolution. It is a fine line to push a prosecutor enough to secure the best possible outcome without alienating a prosecutor. It is in this exact circumstance in which Edward Stone’s 25 years of experience in negotiating cases is brought to bear. Edward Stone seeks the best possible resolution, but also lets the prosecutor know, in no uncertain terms, that the case will be taken to trial at considerable time and expense if the prosecutor is not reasonable.
Contact & Meetings with The Stone Law Firm
Why are there different types of meetings with The Stone Law Firm?
The Stone Law Firm employs four different types of meetings with existing clients:
(1) case update calls (10 minutes)- the purpose of the case update call is for the attorney and client to update each other regarding discovery, witnesses, potential evidence, progression of treatment, plea negotiations, or to simply update you on the status of your case;
(2) webex discovery meetings (30-45 minutes)- the discovery review is the longest meeting you will have with Edward Stone unless your case is progressing to trial. The Stone Law Firm uses Webex for the discovery meeting, the same platform the court uses for Webex court hearings. As such, if your hearings are Webex, you can get live practice getting onto Webex and turning your camera and microphone on and off in a comparatively low pressure/stress environment.
(3) prehearing calls (scheduled on the Friday or Sunday preceding a scheduled court hearing the following week); (4) post sentencing/disposition compliance calls. The purpose of the prehearing call is to update the client on the procedural posture of the case, plea negotiations, what will happen at the hearing, whether you will be expected to speak, and what will happen at the hearing and after the hearing and what the next step will be.
Why do I have to schedule a time to talk to my attorney?
The attorneys at The Stone Law Firm are as good as they are because they are in court all day, every day. There is no substitute for regular court time to acquire and maintain a very high level of courtroom skill. In addition, if a defendant was to call at an unscheduled time, there is a high likelihood that Edward Stone will not have your virtual file readily available. By scheduling a specific time to talk, Edward Stone takes several minutes to review the notes you make when scheduling the appointment and review the file and emails. This preparation makes the phone call highly effective and efficient, which is good for the attorney and the client. In addition, The Stone Law Firm doesn’t know your schedule, so by providing time slots 7 days a week with Edward Stone provides you, the client, maximum flexibility to schedule a phone call during a time that works for you.
Book & Release & Fingerprinting
Where do I get fingerprints?
Every court handles fingerprints a bit differently; some courts take fingerprints at their respective courts. Other courts require defendants to report to the local jail to be fingerprinted. Some courts simply admonish a defendant to get fingerprints completed, others schedule a deadline, and still others schedule a court hearing to ensure a defendant reports for fingerprinting. Edward Stone is familiar with the process of each court and will advise you accordingly.
What is a book and release?
A book and release is a process by which a defendant reports to a jail, is fingerprinted, photographed (mug shots are no longer public), and released. Unless there is an outstanding warrant, the defendant is not taken into custody, is not handcuffed, and is not put into prison clothes or put into a cell. A books and release process takes about 30-45- minutes, depending on the jail and how well staffed the jail is at the time and how many people are simultaneously waiting to complete the book and release process. A book and release is required and judges get quite irritated if defendants and admonished over and over to get booked and released and the defendant does not complete the process. Eventually a judge will take a defendant into custody for an involuntary book and release.
Why do I have to get fingerprinted?
In Utah, a defendant who is facing a class misdemeanor or more serious charge is required to be fingerprinted per Utah law. The fingerprinting process generates what’s known as an Offense Tracking Number (also known as an OTN number). An OTN number associates a defendant (by fingerprints) with that specific case. A defendant is required to be fingerprinted for every case. In other words, you will have to be fingerprinted for your case regardless of the number of times you have been previously fingerprinted, either for other cases or for professional licensing.
What if my contact address and number changes?
The Stone Law Firm maintains a link to provide updated cell phone, email and mailing address information. The burden is on you, the client, to inform The Stone Law Firm of any changes. Failure to do so may result in you not being aware of important deadlines or hearings, which will result in warrants issued by the court for your arrest. In addition, you also have an obligation to inform the court of any changes in mailing address, phone numbers and email addresses. It is very common for defendants to fail in their probation/pleas in abeyance/diversions due to outdated contact information. Judges are not particularly sympathetic to people who fail to keep their contact information updated as people are specifically told by judges that it is their obligation (and almost always a condition of probation) to keep all contact information current with the court and their attorney of record.
What questions can paralegal Carrie Pace answer?
1. How much time will I have to pay my court fines?
2. When do I pay my court fines?
3. How do I pay my court fines?
4. Will anyone follow up with me on my sentencing requirements?
5. What happens if I am late on my payments on my court fines?
6. Does the attorney file my certificates of completion or do I?